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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Holland: Vols. XIV–XV. 1876–79.

Spain: Bidasoa, the River

The Bridge of the Bidasoa

By Johann Ludwig Uhland (1787–1862)

Translated by Percy Boyd

ON the bridge where Bidasoa

Rolls his waters to the main,

There stands a sainted image

Looking forth on France and Spain.

Gently doth Heaven’s blessing

Descend on that sweet shore,

Once crossed by many a soldier

Who saw his home no more.

On the bridge of Bidasoa

By night strange music plays,

There swarthy shades are mingled

With golden, lustrous rays;

One side is bright with roses,

The other dark with sand,

As each the chance discloses

Of death or Fatherland!

The waves of Bidasoa

Glide on with gentle swell,

And, rising o’er their music,

Is heard the shepherd’s bell.

Far other sounds once echoed

Along that river fair,

When a broken host at twilight

Furled their torn banners there.

Wounded, sore, and bleeding—

Of hope, of pride bereft—

On the bridge they leaned their rifles,

And counted who were left.

Long watched they for the missing,

With tearful, earnest eyes,

Until an ancient warrior

To his drooping soldiers cries:

“Roll up the tattered banner,

Once the ensign of the brave,—

No more shall conquest fan her

By the Bidasoa’s wave.

“We must seek a home of freedom

In some country far away,

Where our ancient star of glory

Shall shine with cloudless ray.

O thou, in freedom’s battle,

Who many a toil hast borne,

Spirit of sainted Minna!

Show the path of our return.

“We have one dauntless leader

Left to Spain and freedom yet—

On, then! o’er the river

Her star of glory hath not set!

From the old, time-worn marble,

Where he long had lain so still,

Minna rises sternly glancing

On the lighted western hill!”

Then, from his breast removing

His hand, he opens wide

His wounds, and soon his life-blood

Purples the gushing tide.